Welcome to the website of Higher Education Professionals (HEP)

HEP is an initiative of Carroll Graham, as part of her Doctor of Education research at the University of Technology Sydney (UTS).  The main objective of HEP is to promote quality research into the work of higher education professionals to add to the sustainability of higher education. In addition to research, HEP also supports networking, dialogue and awareness raising among higher education professionals in Australia and the global community.

 Why Higher Education Professionals?

As in other countries, conditions in higher education in Australia have changed dramatically in the last twenty years, with changes in external conditions resulting in pressures within universities. In particular, there has been:

  • rapid growth in the number of students in higher education
  • changes in higher education funding and accountability
  • increasing knowledge and the demand for new disciplines and transdisciplinary approaches
  • industrialisation and changes to industrial relations policy
  • an explosion in information technology and the transformation of teaching and learning

As global conditions continue to evolve, universities will face continued and accelerating rates of change during the twenty-first century.  Higher education institutions will need to operate in an increasingly competitive environment.  An effective, efficient and effectual higher education system will be essential to the sustainability of universities in the twenty-first century.

Typically, university professionals are ignored by government, by universities themselves, and by academics with whom they work. There is lack of research into professional staff and their work.  However, according to statistics from the Department of Education, Employment & Workplace Relations, such staff have comprised more than half the workforce in Australian universities since 1996.  Such a large workforce, almost 55,000 in 2008, invites a better understanding of the work they do, and the contribution made by professional staff to the strategic goals of their institutions.

Why Professionals?Professionals

In the last 10 years, a number of commentators have written about the terminology used to describe this large and diverse group of staff.  Terms such as "general staff", "support staff", "non-academic" and even "other" have typically been used by universities, the government and the media.

In 2009, the Association for Tertiary Education Management (ATEM) supported a benchmarking project on the changing terminology (see ATEM Matters, Issue 36, December 2009, p.42).  Following finalisation of the benchmarking project report, ATEM resolved to formally adopt the term "professional staff" to describe its members at its April 2011 Council meeting.